Posts Tagged ‘Ferguson’

Riots, revelers, teams, and tribes

Whenever local public outrage boils over following a flashpoint murder of an unarmed person of color by a member of the State’s domestic terrorism arm (read:the Police), I usually see at least one social media post by an educated, left-leaning friend like this:

In other words, when a large number of (largely) Caucasian college students and/or sports fans get together in public to celebrate their chosen sports team’s victory by overturning automobiles and burning couches, it’s usually depicted and described by the Media as ‘reveling’…

But when a large number of persons of color get together in public to express their frustration over what has become increasingly clear is the systemic murder of members of their community by those who exist to supposedly ‘serve and protect’ those communities, it’s usually described by the Media as ‘rioting’.

Please note that I’m not addressing looting—which does occur in connection with both types of unrest. Looters, as far as I’m concerned, are a few bad apples making the larger group look bad: criminals, plain and simple, who are taking advantage of unrest in order to commit crimes.
What I am addressing is folks getting together in public, in connection with recent events, to protest—by-and-large nonviolently—police abuses.

Why this difference in how these types of unrest are described? It’s not entirely about race—you have to take a step back and look at the big picture:
42915The reason why sports-related riots are depicted as ‘reveling’ and mass protests are depicted as ‘riots’ is this: because in the sports riots, violence is directed horizontally, contained within the bottom of the pyramid, and it only serves to reinforce arbitrary divisions between artificial tribes (sports teams and their fans). However, the violence (or even non-violence) of a protesting populace is directed in another direction: upwards—from the bottom of the pyramid towards the systems of violence, power, and control at the top…and that’s when the militarized tacti-cops and their SWAT vans come out to play:
7052b-ferguson2bmilitarized2briot2bpoliceThe current power systems in place recognize that the violence of rioting sports fans doesn’t pose a threat to them, and so the ‘revelers’ are allowed their night of diversionary couch-burning fun. Jerry M. Lewis explains quite adeptly how,
“In America the rioting is typically with young white males, and it’s always after championship play or an important playoff game. Why do they do it? It’s a way they identify with the victory. Fan violence becomes an act of sporting success. They can’t dunk a basketball, but they can be violent, which is a metaphor for athletic success.”

Indeed! Being a sports-fan now is primarily a passive pursuit (sit and watch TV)—unless your team wins, in which case, you’d better prove you’re a true fan and flip that car.
And why is this behavior seen “typically with young white males”? As Daniel Quinn writes,

“For ten thousand years you’ve believed that you have the one right way for people to live. But for the last [four] decades or so, that belief has become more and more untenable with every passing year. You may think it odd that this is so, but it’s the men of your culture who are being hit the hardest by the failure of your cultural mythology. They have (and have always had) a much greater investment in the righteousness of your revolution. In coming years, as the signs of collapse become more and more unmistakable, you’ll see them withdraw ever more completely into the surrogate world of male success, the world of sports.”

It’s a great irony—only after abandoning a tribal society in favor of a hierarchical, pyramid-shaped one, our culture found that its men still needed tribes to belong to and identify with…and so professional sports teams were born. Now, if you want to join a tribe, instead undergoing a painful initiation ritual, all you have to do is go out and buy a jersey and some facepaint, and scream louder and burn more couches than the other team’s fans—it’s macho posturing in the same way that tribal folk for a million years have been painting themselves up to both show their affiliations, and intimidate other groups. Unfortunately, at the core of this modern incarnation are petty, arbitrary divisions that only serve to distract and divide an ignorant population—to say nothing of the ubiquitous and constant advertising!

Advertisements

When the Good Guys look like the Bad Guys…

In case you don’t hang around on pop culture websites, here’s the link to what you may have missed last week: the latest nugget of Hunger Games movie-franchise teaser images features the ostensible ‘rebel warriors’ who will appear in the series’ third film, Mockingjay, Part The First.
And here are the posters, all together:

HGMJ1rebs

(On a superficial note, Cressida‘s extreme undercut shaved-head look won’t hold up well in twenty years or so. Plus, good luck getting us to believe the story is set hundreds of years in the future when a character has an oh-so-trendy twenty-teens ‘do like that.)

Ugh. I think my first thought upon seeing these was something along the lines of, “Huh. Good Guys are looking pretty tacticool: black plastic submachineguns, black ninja suits…Are our protagonists planning to take the fight to the Capitol, or raid a Branch Davidian compound?”

In general, I find that the entire publicity/marketing propaganda campaign for these sequels leaves me feeling somewhat nauseous. While the ‘Capitol’ campaign is focused on ideas of ‘unity’ and decadence, the opposition seems more concerned with manufactured ‘resistance’ and being bleak. However, make no mistake, there is nothing organic about either campaign: each is meticulously planned, arranged, ‘shopped, and doled out to the masses of salivating fans.

However, in light of last month’s (justified and, frankly, long overdue) protests/riots and resulting police overkill/crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent broaching of a national conversation about the militarization of police, I have to say that I find this latest batch of publicity posters pretty repulsive. Hell, even if they were released long before things went down in Ferguson, I still would have found them repulsive.

On the Wired link above, I counted (as of 4 September) 35 comments; most seemed to focus on fawning over the sole female in the lineup (I gathered that she also appears on the toxic ‘Game of Thrones’ series), complaining about the first and second films’ similarities, or technical issues. Of those 35, only a single commenter seemed able to separate his enjoyment of the franchise from the troubling visual message on display. This individual (who uses an image of a Black man as their avatar) remarked simply, “Wait, this is the Ferguson Police squad.”
Indeed. Congratulations, ‘tmsruge’, you win.

In fact, if you covered up the faces of these characters and the name of the film being promoted, I would have to assume that they were either elite, spooky, SEAL-type shadowy assassin-tools-of-the-State, or shady Blackwater-type ‘contractor’ mercenaries for private hire. But, surprise!, these are supposedly the Good Guys! Well, I’ll believe it when I see it, because as soon as you put your ‘rebels’ in matching uniforms*, they start looking entirely like oppressive, top-of-the-Pyramid Powers That Be.

And yes, tha Police fall neatly into that category.

*(History seems to show us that in a conflict, the less-civilized force will almost always be the one without uniforms (underdogs may have a similar look, but usually won’t be standardized). Star Wars is a good example of a rare exception: even though the Rebels have a standardized military, they’re still the less-Civilized of the two parties (being democratic, gylanic, and diverse, etc. versus the xenophobic, patriarchal, literal Space Nazis of the Galactic Empire.)

Why is this? Is it some kind of Stockholm Syndrome in the water? Have we become so accustomed to being oppressed by these kinds of paramilitary forces that we’re supposed to identify with—and even root for—them now?
Either the costume designers clearly do not understand what is meant by ‘ragtag resistance’, or perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that the rebels are entirely backed by District 13, whose leadership is just as corrupt as the Capitol?

Anyway, as I close, I’ll bring this back to the Real World, with a handy little tool—compliments of the Freedom of Information Act!—that reports what kind of groovy ex-military gear your local peacekeepers can bring to bear on your community. Stay informed!